Pork Belly “Griot”
A signature dish in Haitian cooking is Griot. Cubes of pork shoulder are marinated overnight or for a few days in a combination of habanero chile, garlic, shallot and bitter oranges. The pork is then stewed in its juices until cooked through. Finally, the delectable pieces are deep-fried to a crispy finish and served with an eye-wateringly good sauce, Sauce Ti Malice, again spiked with habanero.
My version of this dish is a bit labor-intensive, I have to admit, but is completely worth it. If you are one of those people that shy away from fatty pieces, this dish is not for you, but for those that love pork belly, the method I used can be adapted to any flavors you like and results in a meltingly delicious dish.
I like to start by brining the pork belly to keep it juicy during the cooking process. I infuse the brine with the same marination ingredients used in the original dish. If you have extra time, you can start with a dry marinade the first day, then brine and cook the next, and finish the third. Whew! Three day pork belly…are you up for the challenge?
The belly is then cooked confit, which is to say its cooked in its own fat. You can use olive oil or duck fat if you like as a substitute. I like the belly to cool in the cooking fat overnight. The flavor develops, and, in fact, since confit has long been used as a method of preservation, you can keep it like that for at least a week. The belly is then carved up, seared to create a crisp exterior, and served however you like. I make a Haitian habanero-infused vinegar, called pikliz, and dress a light salad with it. The pork belly is crackingly crisp with an indescribable melting tenderness, peppered with hints of garlic and habanero. Enjoy!
Serves 6 to 8 as an entrée; serves 12 to 16 as an appetizer
1 (3 ¼-½ lb) pork belly, with skin
3 lbs lard (or olive oil / duck fat to cover)
9 cups water
1 ¼ cups kosher salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
12 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 2 oranges
2 habanero peppers, minced
2 tsps black peppercorn
8 bay leaves
1 small bunch of thyme
As I mentioned, I infuse the brine with the flavors of a typical Haitian griot marinade. If you have time, you can marinate the pork belly in the garlic, shallots, zests, and habaneros overnight, and make the brine without these ingredients. Otherwise, we’ll start with the brine.
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 4-5 cups of the water with all brine ingredients. Cover and bring up to a boil. Boil covered for 2 minutes and then pour into a pitcher that contains the remaining amount of water, making sure that this water is ice cold (to cool down brine). This allows you to save time and not wait for the brine to cool thoroughly before pouring over the pork belly.
I like to use a 1 to 2 gallon ziploc freezer bag for the brining. Place the belly in the bag and pour in the cooled brine. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Let brine at room temperature for 5 hours. Conversely, you could also keep it in the refrigerator overnight for a maximum of 8 to 9 hours.
Preheat oven to 225° F.
Melt lard in a dutch oven. Remove pork belly from brine, rinse off excess salt and ingredients, and dry thoroughly. Carefully, slip pork belly into the lard and cook in oven for 3 ½ to 4 hours until fork tender. Move belly to a baking dish or other storage container and cover completely in lard. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.
To finish, make sure the pork belly has had time to sit out, so the lard can easily be wiped of. Remove skin with a sharp knife (it peels off pretty easily). Cut into serving-sized pieces (smaller for hors d’oeuvres or appetizer, larger for entrée size).
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan should be pretty hot. Place pork belly, fat side down into the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Some of the fat should render out – pour out if too much is accumulating in the pan. Flip, when brown (3 to 5 minutes), and finish the other side. If it’s a thick piece, after browning, place on a baking sheet in a 300° F oven to warm through.